Scripps Sports, the newly launched sports division of the US media company, has made its first major media rights deal with North American women's basketball’s top-tier WNBA.

The deal will see Scripps air 44 Friday night WNBA regular season games on its broadcast network ION over 15 weeks from May 26 to September 8. ION will carry two windows per night, with some shown nationally and some regionally.

The games will be promoted across Scripps’ vast array of local stations, national networks, Scripps News, and digital multicast network Bounce.

Adam Symson, president and chief executive of Scripps, said: “Fans would understand every Friday on the broadest platform they could gather around the television and watch the WNBA.

“We’ve seen the power of that kind of franchise and the appointment-setting viewing with the NFL with Sunday night football and Thursday night. This is an incredible opportunity to be able to provide that kind of viewing experience for WNBA fans.

“Women’s sports have been squeezed in major programs around other things. It’s time for women’s sport to actually be the primary game of the week. That’s what it will be for us.”

The deal comes after Scripps, which operates a vast array of regional TV networks, launched its sports division last December to “leverage its local-market depth and national broadcast reach” for partnership with leagues, sports conferences, and individual teams.

The division is led by Brian Lawlor, who has headed up the firm’s local media division since 2009.

The company finalized its acquisition of ION Media, a widely distributed US broadcast network, in January 2021 in a deal worth $2.65 billion. ION runs 61 local-market US networks, which Scripps says gives it the fifth-largest national broadcast viewership.

The WNBA is the first sports league to air on ION and is the first sports property on the new Scripps sports platform. The league will produce all the games.

Colie Edison, WNBA chief growth officer, said: “To be the inaugural partner is really groundbreaking.

“The media landscape continues to evolve. We are at the forefront of that evolution.”

ION joins fellow US broadcasters ESPN, ABC, CBS, CBS Sports Network, and NBA TV in carrying WNBA games on linear television. The league also has streaming deals with Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Prime.

The WNBA’s current deal with ESPN, its primary media partner, runs until the end of the 2025 season and sees the broadcaster show 25 regular season games and the entire playoffs.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said: “Access to watch WNBA games is in high demand, and Scripps’ dedicated Friday night lineup of WNBA Games on ION will become much-desired appointment viewing for WNBA fans.”

Image: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images